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Propellers of the City

Sunderland, United Kingdom
Shaped and printed glass celebrating North East ship building

Propellers of the City is an interactive glass sculpture in Sunderland's Keel Square, celebrating Sunderland's ship building and industrial heritage.

A Stephen Broadbent concept and design includes photographs of 500 Sunderland residents who worked in the shipyards, in roles from blacksmith and loftsman to riveter and cleaner.

At 3.5m high, the sculpture can be rotated via a bespoke hand-wheel, so the photographs can be viewed; a design that was fabricated and installed by renowned blacksmith and sculptor Chris Brammall.

The solution

The sculpture was designed to represent the shape of a propeller; the driving force of the ship, with the printed photographs of the local workforce that built them.

Using imagery of old photographs, some of which were decades old and in poor condition - the team at Broadbent Studios processed them into a bespoke interlayer which Romag laminated between layers of specialist low iron glass.

Following the laminating process, we cut the propeller pieces using our 360°  precision water jet cutter. The pieces were then polished for a seamless finish when assembled in the frame.

The result

The resulting sculpture is a fantastic example of glass art and an impressive testament to Sunderland's ship-building history. The glass design showcases 500 shipbuilding photographs of men and women, alongside images the impressive shipyards, which give the context to the faces.

The printed interlayer also illustrates and reinforces the propeller and water textures.

The large engagement process was facilitated by Janette Hilton and Alan Cummings at Living History North East, who have managed this massive community project. The square was officially opened on 31st August 2015.


Image Credit: © Source - Licence, © Source - Licence 

Design and concept: Stephen Broadbent

Manufacture and installation : Chris Brammall

What they say

"The Sunderland Keel Line project was a particularly fascinating piece of work steeped in history and heritage.  Chris Brammall worked with artist Stephen Broadbent on design development, manufacture and installation.  To find a local firm who could produce the specialist glass elements which involved printing with a laminated interlay was a particular bonus for both for ourselves and the client and we were pleased with the service Romag provided.  We would not hesitate to use them in the future for other similar work".

Chris Brammall

Chris Brammall Ltd.
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